Major jump-off: Brgy. Hall of Malaya, Pililla
LLA: 14°23'10"N; 121°21'57" E; 745 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1 day / 3-4 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail class 1-3
Features: Views of Laguna Lake and Southern Tagalog mountains
The hiking advisory for Mt. Sembrano has been lifted as of August 2012.
At the helm of Jalajala peninsula, jutting into Laguna Lake like a frigate, is Mt. Sembrano in Pililla, Rizal. Once a haven of NPA insurgents, it is now a popular hiking destination. The trails are challenging for a daytrip, and takes 3-4 hours to climb. First there’ll be a wide rough road which leads to a rocky path. Locals, if you encounter them, would offer to get fresh coconut juice for P10. Characteristic of the earlier portions of the trail are the numerous mango trees; it is like an orchard. If it is mango season, you might just be tempted to pick a fruit or two. Thus the area is called Manggahan – and there is a campsite here, before the trails become moderately steep (~45 degrees).
Fiery red flowers bloom from the trees, and the view, facing Laguna Lake, emerges. Finally after 1.5-2 hours in the woodland there will be the grassland. North Peak, the first high point, will be reached in 10 minutes, and some hikers prefer to camp here. From North Peak, the South Peak (summit) is still 30 minutes away, but you can already see the outline of the trail.
There are no markers in the summit, and sometimes grass overgrowth may obstruct the view. Although the heat can overwhelm the senses, the view at the peak is scenic, and is best appreciated in the late afternoon. Laguna Lake, Talim Island, the Sierra Madre, the Banahaw Trilogy, Mt. Makiling, and even a distant Mt. Arayat comprise its illustrious list of sights.
On the way down, you may visit the Manggahan Falls. It is just a small falls but it is a welcome sight after a long trek. The five-minute trail going there is right of the campsite if you’re going down. Here you can shower at the lower parts, or get water in the higher sections of the falls. At the Brgy. Hall of Malaya, you may tidy up before going back to Manila. There and within the vicinity, you can ask around for shower rooms. On your trip back, the sun sets in Laguna Lake, and on clear days it is a nice sight to behold.
0500 Assembly at EDSA Crossing. Take jeep to Tanay, Rizal
0700 ETA Tanay Rizal; take jeep to Pililla (there’s a queue of jeeps in the terminal)
0800 ETA Brgy. Malaya, Pililla (jump-off). Register.
0830 Start trek
0930 ETA Manggahan
1045 ETA North Peak
1130 ETA South Peak (summit). Lunch.
1230 Start descent.
1400 ETA Manggahan Falls.
1600 Back at jump-off, tidy up then take jeep back Tanay (or Manila)
2000 ETA Manila
EDSA Crossing is a good meeting place because from there, you can take a jeepney to Tanay, or rent a jeepney to take you straight to the jump-off. Expect to pay P70~P85 for the entire one-way trip (August 2012). Registration is done at the Brgy. Hall of Malaya; there’s a fee of P20, and they give their cellphone number so that you may contact them in case of emergency. The Manggahan campsite caretakers collect an additional P10.
Sembrano, especially the summit area, is fully exposed to the sun; be advised that daytrips require extra energy. If climbing during the summer months, bring more water. If camping overnight, you may use Manggahan Falls as a water source. Cellphone signal is strong throughout the trail.
The absence of cover makes Sembrano, especially its summit, very hot at high noon, especially during summer months. Be advised accordingly. Also, be warned of kaingin activity during March-April. These human-caused brushfires pose a danger to hikers because they can engulf entire portions of the slopes in flames. Thus be extra cautious when climbing on these months.
MT. SEMBRANO PICTURES
Hunters used to frequent Mt. Sembrano but now their numbers dwindle. In Pakil, Laguna there is a trail that leads to Sembrano also, however, this is hardly documented and rarely used.
Although logistically difficult, a 'twin dayhikes' of Mt. Tagapo and Mt. Sembrano is possible. The blogger has done it twice - see Hiking matters #257 and #286.
Ownership of parts of Mt. Sembrano, it is said, belongs to a Fil-Chinese businessman. The etymology of “Sembrano” is unknown. If anyone knows where this name originated, kindly inform PinoyMountaineer.